Thing 2 – Blogging

I haven’t always wanted to be a librarian. Strangely, I did want to be a librarian when I was very young. At that stage the library was one of my favourite places and I thought that librarians got to sit around and read books all day. To be young and naive! Honestly, I suppose I never really knew enough about my options at 16/17 to really see it as a viable career choice. I could have done more research but I think that when it came to making the dreading CAO decisions I was stuck between two fairly ‘safe’ choices – law and teaching. I ruled out law because I felt it would limit my opportunity to travel. And so, ended up in Arts.

While I was studying for my degree I realised that I didn’t really want to be a secondary school teacher and so I started looking at my other options. It’s not that I didn’t like the idea of teaching but felt that maybe I would be better suited to a different type of teaching. I considered trying to go down the road of academia and so entered into an English Masters course. It was during this course that I really re-discovered and re-evaluated my love for the library and in doing a reference module I finally became aware of the interesting and diverse career I could have as a librarian. I thought it would fulfill my ambition to have a job in which I could continue to learn, it would allow me to travel if I wanted and it would also give me an opportunity to teach, or do research, if that was what I wanted.

It took me awhile after my English degree to actually get into librarianship. I researched the career extensively in that time and was fully sure it was what I wanted and so I worked hard doing various jobs to save enough money to return to college. I mainly worked in fashion retail and while it wasn’t my dream job I did learn a lot about working with people, both in terms of customer service and management of people which at the end of the day will stand to me in any job I undertake in the future.

Making the choice to go into librarianship is certainly not an easy one, especially with the way the job market has been over the past few years. The fact is you will probably have to work for free to build experience and send countless applications before your first big break. You have to want it!

I’ve been very lucky in the different range of experience I have gotten since finishing college. I feel that as I am early in my career why not try and get varied experience and make the most of it. While all my experience has been in the medical rather than academic or public etc. arena, I have worked on cataloguing projects, in research which involved project management and literature searching, and now I have a very exciting role where I not only get to work in a library but also in an archive and museum. I am learning so much!

It is obviously very difficult to know if the choices I am making are the right ones and whether they will lead to something more secure and long term in the future. However, for right now I am really happy. I feel like I’m still a student, learning all the time and asking questions. Really and truly this is all I’ve ever wanted from a career.

I hope that in the next few years I continue to learn and not be scared to take on new challenges and learn from new opportunities. There are plenty of aspects of librarianship I would love to get more experience in such as teaching, reference desk, more digital and systems work – variety is the spice of life! I hope that I continue to have the courage to go for what I want and that I don’t get jaded if it’s a difficult road. I love librarianship – that much I’m sure of. And that helps me believe that I will work as hard as I can to ensure that whatever I’m doing it involves using my librarian skills and telling the world just how awesome librarians are.

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Documenting your learning

Used with permission - Guudmorning - FlickrThe tagline of my blog is ‘perspectives of a newbie to the library world’ and so today I thought I’d share with you something that I believe is useful for those new to the profession and maybe even for those who have been in the profession for awhile but want to keep track of their CPD.

I have just completed a Jobbridge internship and I am one of the lucky people who had a very positive experience and gained a lot from the 6 months I spent working as a library intern. One of the things I wanted to share about my experience that I think is useful for anyone starting out is the process of keeping a learning log.

As part of the internship we were required to have weekly meetings with our mentor and keep a note of everything we were learning in a monthly learning log. I found this process very helpful and rewarding and it will be something that I hope to continue into the next part of my career.

For the internship the learning log asked the following:

  1. What are the key skills/learning areas you developed this month?
  2. How will you be able to apply what you have learnt?
  3. What areas would you like to develop?

I found that this process was very rewarding for several reasons, the most important being that when it came to writing up my CV I had all the relevant experience and training already written down. This meant the CV was easier to compile and it was less likely that I would forget or omit anything important.

The section that required us to think about the ways we can apply what we learnt helped to identify transferable skills and aspects of the job that you might otherwise overlook. It also got me thinking creatively about how I could apply my skills in various roles and this will be extremely useful when it comes to answering interview questions.

I also enjoyed reflecting on the areas I wanted to develop because these sections make it easy for me to identify areas for CPD so that I can focus my learning in the areas I feel are important or interesting. Also, because I had a very supportive mentor I was allowed to develop my skills in areas that weren’t necessarily part of my original job spec (e.g. I received training in the use of CALM software and in how to catalogue to archival standards because I asked my mentor if this would be possible).

For those doing Jobbridge the LAI offers accreditation (see here) and this requires a 2 page reflective report. Having learning logs available to you will certainly help in writing up this type of report.

In fact, learning logs and keeping an up to date log of your CPD will be very useful should you wish to apply for Associateship or Fellowship of LAI further down the line.

I would encourage people interested in doing something like this to be quite reflective during the process rather than just listing very simple factual information. While it is useful to have a list of skills it is even more useful to put thought into how you can use these skills in different ways and perhaps evaluate your learning to acknowledge what was useful and what wasn’t, or perhaps how you could improve your learning. There is the possibility that this might help you to identify a useful MOOC or other course that will fill a gap in your knowledge.

CPD diagramFor those beginning an internship or CPD it might even be a good idea to write down what you think you will learn before you begin and compare this to the outcomes at the end.

As I have said I was very lucky with my internship and actually had another great internship experience before this one, both experiences were made great by fantastic mentors who were willing to provide me with training in areas I wanted. In other words it wasn’t a one way street.  By having a good idea from the outset about what you think you are going to gain from the internship this might give you more confidence to discuss your ideas and what you want to gain from the internship with the host organisation. The point of an internship should be to gain experience and to learn and if this isn’t happening for you then you should definitely consider other options.

I was delighted to see CPD certificates being given to attendees of the recent A&SL Annual Seminar and I think this will also help to encourage me to put together a file that keeps track of my learning and CPD. Keeping track of everything you do makes it easier to apply for jobs (and prep for interviews), be confident that you are keeping up to date, to be creative in your thinking and see patterns and trends that might be developing either in terms of your own interests or in terms of what is happening in the profession.

Irish Library Camp 2013

On Saturday I attended the very first Irish Library Camp. The venue, ‘The Chocolate Factory,’ was actually very apt when you saw the cupcakeamount of chocolate and cake in attendance. Librarians are truly multi-talented, and they love cake! However, even though there were some truly amazing treats, by far the best thing about library camp was the informal setting and atmosphere which made it very easy to strike up conversation. From the minute I walked in I found myself chatting to people, many of whom I have ‘met’ on Twitter. It was great to finally put some faces to Twitter names. Some of my MLIS class were also in attendance so it was fun to catch up and see how people are getting on now that the madness of final assignments and exams is over and people are getting stuck into the various Capstone projects. In Ireland we know its a small world and funnily enough the first stranger I spoke to turned out to be from my hometown and there I was thinking I was the only librarian from my neck of the woods.

BellBefore we all lapsed into a sugar coma, the first event got underway. Speed networking, a pitch by Helen Kielt, was the perfect way to start proceedings. It allowed us to mingle and meet people and gave us the opportunity to think a bit about how we present ourselves. I really enjoyed it; I chatted to people I know, people I have chatted to on Twitter previously but have never met and complete strangers. Everyone had really interesting things to say and the only downside was that the 2 mins we had to chat seemed too short at times. I think this activity was particularly useful for the students who are taking their first steps into the ‘real’ world. I know I personally find meeting new people extremely nerve-wracking but situations like this force you out of your comfort zone and build your confidence.

Another fun aspect of Library Camp is that you can choose the pitches you want to take part in and that means that people can take away completely different things from the day. There were so many Tweets!! And I’m sure there will be several blog posts and they might all have something different to talk about which is great. You can check out the Storify by LAI CDG here to get a big picture of the day. I chose to attend a pitch by Laura Rooney Ferris, Marie Cullen and Aoife Connolly in the first session. Laura spoke about the issues surrounding being a solo librarian. I think the most important things I learnt from her pitch were the importance of being able to advocate for your library and your position within the wider organisation, being able to find projects where you can make a difference to show your worth, being able to multi-task or priortise projects and the importance of having a network for support. The idea of having a network for support led nicely into Marie’s discussion about membership of the Library Association of Ireland. I liked her suggestions that the process should involve more personal reflection on your CPD. On a personal note, I have found this blog extremely useful in thinking about what I have learnt this year and I intend to continue to utilise it for CPD in the future. Finally, Aoife wanted to think about our titles. I have come across a few instances this year where it seems the word ‘librarian’ may be a problematic one but how do we change perceptions? Do we try to find another word or phrase that establishes what we do in a way people can understand? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer right now but it is a something I like to think about and I love to hear other people’s opinions on the subject.

After yet more cake, I chose to partake in the pitch by Emmet Keoghan which was looking at our qualification. I really enjoyed this Diplomachat because it made me look a little deeper at what I have learnt this year and what perhaps would have been beneficial additions to my learning. I think there is a case to be made that some things are omitted from library school that would be very useful, for example some business focused modules or a module that deals with the legalities of copyright and licensing etc. However, what I think is the biggest problem with the course, as far as the discussion we were having, is the different types of student involved and therefore the different needs or expectations of the students. Many students in the MLIS this year, like myself, did not have any practical library experience going into the course. Someone mentioned that all students going into the course should have 3-6 months work experience and then the modules could be better organised to provide more practical skills. I have to admit I think this is a brilliant idea; however, it is very very difficult for people trying to get into the library and information sector to obtain entry level positions without a Masters. The students of today are between a rock and a hard place in relation to getting qualified, getting experience and having the money to live. This applies to every student not just library students. Employers are expecting more and more for less and to be honest as much I would have loved to work in a library for free and get the experience I so desperately wanted, I couldn’t afford to eat and pay rent and pay college loans without working. Now I don’t feel sorry for myself, I’m very happy that I have been able to put myself through college. I have been lucky to get some work experience that is relevant in the last few months so I have achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time and I’m happy with my progress. Would it have been better for me to have this experience before college? I’m not sure. Perhaps the Masters in SILS has changed to suit people trying to get into the profession rather than people that have been working in a library and are looking to up-skill. I know that my lack of practical experience hasn’t affected my ability to achieve very good grades. I know that as regards trying to get work after the course more experience would have been beneficial but I’m not sure if I could have afforded both low-paid or unpaid experience and a degree. I have enjoyed the Masters; I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I look back in a year or two after working in the area but one thing it has taught me is that I can adapt and I can learn. If the Masters has given me anything, it is confidence in myself and my abilities, the determination that this is the career I want to pursue and a thirst for more. To be quite frank I’m not sure how well any degree prepares a student for life in the ‘real’ world but I feel like if the degree gives them the same sense of confidence that their skills are relevant to their chosen career and makes them strive for more then surely it is doing something right. I understand that my views on this could be very different to someone who has worked in a library and has gone back to do the MLIS.

Anyway, after this chat, I stayed to talk some more and on my walk home I found I had a lot to think about. We were discussing how certain things were left out of the MLIS and someone made the point that things like budgeting and legal issues are not things that you are likely to deal with in your first library job out of college. I began to think that because CPD is so important it would be great to be able to learn about these areas after college and when it becomes relevant. There were suggestions of being able to complete courses at a modular level, possibly negotiating a lower rate considering the huge expense associated with college tuition. However, as I strolled along I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if librarians could collaborate with other groups to facilitate learning. Librarians have a lot to offer, we could help people with their information literacy skills, or with social media and very many other things while small business owners or lawyers or publishers could contribute with their expertise in budgeting or copyright law. By collaborating with others librarians could increase the profile of the profession and begin to change the outdated perceptions. The public library would be a perfect place to hold informal ‘learning camps’ and costs could be kept low enough if people had the attitude that it would be collaborative learning, people learning different things from each other. The difficulty would be that there would be no certification for anything learnt at an event like this and it might be very difficult to get up and running.

Anyway, that is just an idea but it goes to show that Library Camp was a success because I met other library and information professionals, took part in great pitches and I came away inspired and thoughtful.

Thank you very much to the LAI Career Development Group and the Academic and Special Libraries Section of the LAI for such a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable day.

Interest in Continuing Professional Development and Lifelong Learning

As the MLIS classes draw to a close I am becoming more and more interested in how I will continue my education. I believe an interest in CPD and lifelong learning is something which is essential for an information professional. I am very enthusiastic about my personal career development and my Issues in Professional Practice module has highlighted the importance of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) and this is something I will continue as I travel down my career path.

There are several things that I have done this year that highlight my interest in continuing to develop my skills and understanding of the profession.

1. Networking – I have been very pro-active in the development of my PLN, I have been to as many conferences as I could, I have joined the Library Association of Ireland to stay updated and informed, I partake in discussions on Twitter, both organised (e.g. #irelibchat) and spontaneous.

2. Researching options for courses I could take in the future. For example, I have an interest in Rare Books and would love to take the Short Course available from Aberystwyth. See here for more details. I would also like to take a course in Web Publishing at some point in the future, though it has to be said I am very happy with the skills I’ve gained in relation to using open source systems like WordPress or Omeka.

3. I think my blog highlights my interest in the profession and the ways in which it is changing. I am very aware that that I could be doing very different things over the course of my career and I believe my willingness to accept this and my willingness to adapt are very important. CPD is not something I view as optional, to me it is necessary to ensure I am able to do the best I can in whatever role I might find myself.

4. I think my enthusiasm for CPD is more than just something that can be seen as something within my own professional development. I have taken a Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator module in order to ensure that I have the teaching skills necessary to help others on their journey through CPD.

I believe these points highlight my determination not to stop learning just because I finish college. Lifelong learning has always been a career necessity for me and I truly believe I have found the perfect career path to achieve satisfaction in relation to this.